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San Diego's flood relief journey

 February 14, 2024 at 4:32 PM PST

S1: Welcome in. It's Jade Hindman. Today we're talking with community organizations helping people impacted by earlier floods. Their focus is now shifting to rebuilding homes in San Diego. This is Midday Edition , connecting our communities through conversation. On Monday , San Diego County officials announced they are now providing housing for people displaced by flooding that happened during the January 22nd storm. The news comes as the city of San Diego announced a new online resource hub for those affected by flooding that can be found at San But local nonprofit groups have been on the ground helping impacted communities since day one , when flooding hit areas like South Crest , Chorley's Creek as well as parts of National City. Today , we hear from some of those involved in the ongoing efforts to help those affected by the flooding. Joining me today is Valerie Brew , child well-being and Family wellness department director with Sbcs. They serve the South Bay. And Valerie , welcome.

S2: Thank you so much. I'm glad to be here.

S1: Glad to have you. Also , Armand Harvey joins us. He is the president and founder of Harvey Family Foundation. Armand , welcome.

S3: Thank you for the invitation. Glad to be here.

S1: Glad to have you and Pamela Gray Peyton , vice president and chief impact and partnership officer with the San Diego Foundation. Pamela , welcome.

S4: Thank you Jade.

S1: So glad to have all of you here. You know , first , I know that you all have been working closely , getting people housed during this crisis.

S3: Um , as well as working with those who haven't been housed on the streets as far as needs being met. I think in our opinion , we're doing the best that we can , uh , to do so. Um , but we're working closely with other organizations to make sure that the expectation of the flood victims are met. So I would say the best that we can. I wouldn't , I don't I wouldn't say 100% are met because I know a lot of these families would love to be back at home , but we're doing the best that we can together.

S4: All right.

S1: We will dive into their needs later in the interview. But the Harvey Family Foundation was among the first non-profits on the ground there after this storm hit , and we saw these horrible images of flooding , of cars floating away , people evacuating , rising floodwaters. Can you tell us about that day ? And when you realized this was was really no ordinary storm ? Yeah.

S3: You know , it was just an ordinary Monday. Y'all just was actually driving home from the gym. Um , just was going up my street to go. Uh , as I normally do. Go say hi to my mom and my grandma and Logan and just realize there's a , you know , abnormal amount of of of water gathering at the bottom of Logan Avenue. So when I just got home playing with my nephew , uh , get a phone call from down the street saying like , hey , there's cars that are actually being submerged. And , you know , I'm like , oh , no , I couldn't happen. So once I go outside , I take a look down the street. I actually see it. So I immediately just , you know , got in a car , went down the street to make sure people weren't in cars , helped a friend out as they were trying to cross over , uh , the street trying to stop traffic. And then , uh , got a phone call stating that later that night that the , uh , Red cross would be opening up over at Lincoln High School. So with me coaching there , I immediately went to go lending a hand as I grabbed volunteers within the community to help me set up beds for the Red cross. Realizing that not only my street was affected , I had no idea who else was affected. I started immediately getting phone calls from around , uh , Southeast San Diego of of needs that houses are actually being submerged. So we encourage everyone to , uh , come to the Red cross , fill out intake forms to figure out what they needs are. And it just started to become overwhelming. I immediately got on a phone with Ana , um , over at Jackie Robinson YMCA. Um , as she's a good friend of mine and and asked her what she be able to offer the YMCA as assistance , whether it be , uh , more housing or showers. What can she offer ? She said , well , as of right now , we can offer the showers. So then , you know , uh , she she did that. We started , uh , offering showers , allowing people from the Red cross and people that were affected within the immediate community to come take showers. As that was happening , we , uh , started getting more and more stories of people that were coming in and what was happening around around southeast San Diego , South Crest , Shell Town , also in Encanto and started as we saw the devastation. It just was it just was sickening and just just sad to see so many. I mean , at one point , you know , we saw two cars at the end of a cul de sac inside someone else's house. Mhm. Um , we saw people on top of roofs , you know , we immediately just sprung into action and just are like , you know , hey , this is the day after the storm and people are still hanging out on their roofs.

S1: No , I was going to say I mean , it's it's so great that you were able to pull resources together and really handle this quickly and get everyone mobilized. I mean , that I mean , that's a huge , huge help to the community.

S2: So Spc's is located in the South region , and we actually have staff that are co-located at the schools and national city as well as family resource centers. And quickly we were receiving phone calls , not just from our staff that are located throughout the community , but also residents and families that we serve. And quickly thereafter , receiving phone calls from the city of National City , who's been a great partner of ours throughout the decades of just the great need that we are experiencing in our community. And in particular , Jean , there was a mobile park in National City that was completely devastated. Um , virtually the whole the whole park washed away. And this is a lower income mobile home park. So we knew we need to gather resources for our residents here in the in the South region , in particular National City. And that's why we were so fortunate to receive funding from the San Diego Foundation to immediately , immediately move into our first phase. Telling our families , getting them out of the unsanitary and unsafe conditions of their home , or if they were already displaced , too many were living in their cars because they had no financial resources to enter into a motel. So we were really fortunate to be able to start doing that on February 2nd.


S4: It was initially just shock that this could be happening in San Diego , and immediately following that was seeing the the commitment from Armand and the crew that he's mentioned , uh , jumping into action without being asked , recognizing that there was a desperate situation and that people needed help immediately and they were incredibly responsive to those needs. Uh , we came on board just a few days later , I believe , and said , how can we help ? And what we all realized was needed urgently was temporary housing assistance , as so many people had been displaced from their homes or should not be in their homes given the conditions. And so we immediately connected with Arman and with the why , to ask if they would be able to help us with actually placing folks in temporary housing situations and hotels and motels.

S1: And Pamela , you mentioned temporary housing.

S4: Uh , the county housing program has said that the goal is to transition these individuals who are currently being housed with resources from San Diego's Flood Response Fund to a county funded program that will allow them to stay in either the existing temporary shelter that they're in or temporary housing that they're in for at least another month. Uh , and in some cases , you know , those individuals are going to need to be supported by our fund for a few more days , allowing the county more time to get their services up and activated. So if the county housing comes in for a 30 day window , that means that for a lot of these people , come the middle of March , their housing resources will expire.

S1: Valerie , then I want to pull you into this. I mean , what the housing situation from where you sit.

S2: I mean , we're fortunate to be able to house in temporary motel situations , many of the families. But that really still isn't enough. As Pamela said , you know , we know that funding with the county might be delayed a little bit until we're processing all of the intakes. And with the recent rains that we experienced after the January 22nd storm and flood , that had actually caused more repair and construction delays. So for families that were working on repairing their homes , then we're delayed even further with the more recent rains. Um , so the need is great. We've been working every day , doing a lot of outreach. Our agency has promoted us , and we're sending them out in the field in National City to really make sure we're reaching all families that have been displaced or is even , Pamela noted , might be living in their dwelling when they should not be because there's no gas , there's no electricity , their stoves have been destroyed , there's mold growing. So we're really doing a lot of outreach as well to this day. Wow.

S1: Wow. And you know , we've touched on this , but you all really make the point that this was a team effort to get people help. And Armond , you compare it to the Avengers.

S3: They've been nonstop supportive of me being behind in the background , not really being in the forefront. So , you know , and then as well as Tasha Williamson , she's been a great advisor to me. Um , on things that I should do , how I should say , how should I approach things as well as Barry , who's been incredible with his team and all the data and creating the QR code , as well as our , uh , geo mapping system. Um , for us to be able to respond to people who are in need. Fast. That has been huge for us. And Anna , she's been , you know , just the best , just with the admin part of it , the facilitation of part of it , and as well as acting swiftly on being able to facilitate the housing process and getting those that we have surveyed on the ground housing and being able to prioritize it with the help of Barry's team. So , you know , I got to give all the credit to the people who actually believed in it. And just without questions or hesitation , um , just jump into action.

S1: And , Pamela , last week , the San Diego Foundation announced it raised more than $800,000 for its San Diego Flood Response Fund.

S4: The fund was launched just a few days after the disaster. So the event happened on January the 22nd. I think the fund was up and operating by that Thursday the 25th. Uh , the fund has actually raised over $950,000 as of today. And that has come by way of more than a thousand donors , many of whom are , you know , people associated with the foundation , meaning there fund holders. But some of them are just folks in San Diego who care about their community and want to do what they can to help. Uh , and then we've had quite a few , uh , donations from corporate partners and people , organizations that we know we can depend on to help in our time of need. Uh , the fund has provided over $500,000 in grants so far. Uh , Armand serves on the advisory council for that fund. So we have a group of eight people who are looking at the applications that are coming in , looking at the situation on the ground and helping us determine what the priorities must be for those funds. Unfortunately , we probably have over two and a half , $3 million in request for the funds right now. And as I said , we're at roughly or have received about $950,000 so far , with more than 550,000 going out the door. And just yesterday , we made a few more commitments for funding , so we're not able to accommodate all of the request that are coming in because we just don't have the resources , but we have a match. So anyone who wants to contribute to the fund right now , those dollars are being matched. Uh , one for two. Meaning for every dollar that is coming in the foundation will contribute towards that. So we are hoping to raise another million dollars , and that will unlock a $500,000 contribution from San Diego Foundation. And I want to just say big thanks to the Y and to SBC s. Both of them , as you've heard , have allocated human resources of significant magnitude to this effort. And they're not charging the fund for their effort. So the work that they're doing is completely pro bono. It's helping the community , getting people housed , uh , temporarily while we sort out as a region how best to help people long term. Uh , that has been pretty phenomenal. And it allows us to put all of the money into the needs of the community.

S1: Coming up , the conversation continues as organizations shift focus to recovery and rebuilding.

S3: I've learned that the the the community can mobilize pretty quickly for a common cause.

S1: You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. We're talking with some of the nonprofits who have been helping communities impacted by flooding as a result of the January 22nd storm. And , Valerie , we talked about all of your efforts to get people housed in the near term. But there's still a long way to go.

S2: And I also think just families recovering , I mean , to lose your entire home and many of the belongings that that go with that home , we're talking about just even the trauma and the impact that has a lasting impact on families. But it goes beyond those homes. We have families that have lost their cars , their computers. We had we had one single mom whose daughter was in college and everything was destroyed , including the computer. Um , and so the mom had a , you know , go buy a new computer and put that on credit just so that her daughter could continue her schooling in college. So the the repairs beyond the home are extensive , from clothing to to household establishments to the vehicles. And I think just recovering to from , you know , having to miss work , miss school. Um , these families are so resilient. It's amazing. It's so inspirational. And I know Pamela mentioned the in-kind of our human capital and resources. And I'll tell you , the families are just such an inspiration. And we're here working every day. And it's an honor to actually partner with them and to be able to help support them long term as a recovering from this just unbelievable disaster. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. No , that is good to hear. And speaking about , you know , the long term Almon I think the Harvey Family Foundation , you all have some goals to get people back in their homes by next month. Tell us about those efforts there. And and what it'll take to actually make that happen. Right.

S3: Right. So from the beginning with our plan , um , we decided to kind of break this up in different phases with phase one is working with , um , philanthropy dollars and donations , you know , thanks to , um , um , San Diego Foundation and helping with that and facilitating us getting the houses , uh , the families in , um , temporary , uh , hotels. Um , and now that the county has stepped in , um , and working close with Barbara from HRSa , um , we've decided to kind of take a step back and allow them to do what they need to do to get this extension done. So we're going to work with them as far as just facilitating of getting our list of people , um , who we have been helping , um , that extension. Now , while that is happening , we're going to move forward to phase two , which is the remediation of the of the homes. Our plan is to go out and remediate these homes , get it all cleared out from the muck , the debris , you know , all that to at least get it down to where it can then be rebuilt to be able to get the walls. We want to make sure that at the end of this 30 days , that the walls , the floor , the roof is all in. So that way they at least have a home to come to after these 30 days are over.

S1: And Pamela , I know , as you just mentioned , there are public resources , um , available.

S4: I've never had to help navigate these very , very uncertain waters. But being able to rely on the nonprofits , while the city and the county worked on establishing both the emergency centers that they created so the local community lacks , excuse me , that were established. And then now that they're almost ready to start receiving the folks who have been in our temporary , uh , arrangements , either hotels and motels , uh , just providing the ongoing support to the non-profits while the city and the county are getting , uh , online and activated to carry on in , in this particular way. Uh , we're hoping that they'll have the resources to help everyone that has been aided thus far. Uh , there may even be some folks that haven't received housing assistance but need help. And so our hope is that the city and the county will be able to provide those essential services to people while we continue to partner with other folks to put more money into the rebuilding process that are mine was just describing , you know , and Valerie , as well as you imagine , hundreds and hundreds of people who have lost everything. Uh , that is an extraordinary loss for a family. It's trauma for children. It's trauma for their parents. They've lost everything. And so helping those families get reestablished is going to be a long , long process. And it's going to take lots of money from multiple sources. And I don't know that any of us have an answer just yet , but we're committed to the long term to helping , uh , sort all of this out and see how philanthropy can best serve the community in a time like this. But yeah , it's extraordinary. People have lost everything. And in some cases , you know , folks who've lost their vehicles , but their livelihood was supported as an Uber or Lyft driver , and they're no longer able to do that. So it's a it's a very big challenge facing the community. And I just hope your listeners and others will recognize that it's it important that all of us gather and support our communities as one. People need our help right now , and we're here to help facilitate from a fundraising standpoint and really leaning on our nonprofit partners like the Harvey Family Foundation , the Y and SBC's and so many others to be the the organizations that are on the ground gaining the trust and supporting the community when they need it most.


S4: Two on one has been capturing this information. Both the Y and Sbcs have been helping as well , with gathering information about the number of households that have been helped. We're somewhere around 250 households , and that means over 700 people , I believe is a as an estimate right now , both adults and children and a few pets in there as well. Uh , but we know that's just scratching the surface. Not everyone needed to move out of their home because of , uh , an inevitability of their home. But others have been in homes that probably and under different circumstances , they would not have stayed in. And then other organizations have provided housing assistance for their tenants , and they need help , too. So I just want to lift up organizations like the Chicano Federation and Wake Island Housing , both of whom have affordable housing communities that have been severely impacted. And they need help , uh , providing temporary long term housing for their clients as well. Um.

S5: Um.

S1: And so I know that there are a lot of nonprofits , um , who have come together , who are offering resources for people whose homes have really just been destroyed , um , or who need this a substantial amount of work done to be able to move back in.

S4: It's a very unusual set of circumstances and thresholds that need to be met in order to those in order for them to unlock resources. The $10 million the county approved a couple of weeks ago , uh , were first our first being utilized to address the housing issue , but there have been quite a few organizations on the ground that are helping with remediation , and we're hoping to learn more about what the city and the county will be able to offer. Um , you've seen the mayor's announcements about the work that the city is doing and how they are stepping up everything from , uh , trash pickups , etc. , and removing fees for those types of services. All of that is extremely helpful , but what resources will be available to help people rebuild their lives is still to be determined. And we're you know , as time passes , it becomes more challenging for folks to get that information. So we're really hoping that our city and county county leaders can give the community the information they need as soon as possible. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. And , Armand , I know that's an area that you're , um , Foundation is looking to help people with. I'm curious , you know , with all the tap and so many people coming together to to help and assist in this time of need.

S3: And , um , I wouldn't say that that was very surprising , because I know that the community is the members in the community really love where each and every one of us are from. Um , but I just learned from the different backgrounds , from organizations , uh , the different backgrounds and ethnicities that all live within our community. Um , just the love that everybody has for this community out here in southeast San Diego , South crest. Uh , you know , so , you know , show town , like , we're working with organizations and people that we never met. And now they , you know , we've built long term relationships with them because of this , um , you know , unfortunate situation that happened. But a lot of positives have come of this , and we continue to are going to continue to grow and really build , um , this disaster relief team to make sure that. We , you know , learn from it and make sure that , you know , we're more prepared for something like this if it ever happens again. Hmm.

S5: Hmm.

S1: And finally , I want to ask each of you , for those who who want to lend a hand or support those affected by the storms. What's the best way to do that ? And , Valerie , I'll start with you. Sure.

S2: Sure. Well , I first think keeping the conversation going , you know , the storm happened back on January 22nd. So we're going on , you know , past three weeks. And so I think for residents that are caring and concerning about this issue , to continue to talk with family , social groups , community members , keep the conversation going so we can keep this in the forefront. Um , our families also beyond the hotel , do need other financial support related to food and transportation and clothing and rebuilding those non-household , um , established establishments would be very , very helpful.


S3: So those are the two asks that we are we are asking people if they want to help in this relief.


S4: What they've shown is that by collaborating and working together on behalf of the community and people in need , we can do anything. Uh , and it has been remarkable to witness , I , I can't imagine where these communities would be if not for the leadership that Armand has provided. And the partnership that so many other organizations and their volunteers , legions of volunteers , have committed to this initiative. Initiative ? Over the past three weeks. It has been extraordinary to witness. And I just want to say thank you to Armand and to Valerie for stepping up in the way that they have. It has been a pleasure to to be able to join beside you as a funder. We want to continue to do more , obviously. And so we are really relying on the community to help us do that through continued donations to the fund.

S1: I've been speaking with Valerie Bru , child wellbeing and family wellness department director with Sbcs Armand Harvey , president and founder of Harvey Family Foundation , and Pamela Gray Patton , vice president with the San Diego Foundation. If you are in need of services , you can also visit San Diego Gov Slash Recovery or for more information. Thank you all so much for joining us and for all of the work that you've been doing in the community.

S4: Thank you. Jade.

S3: Thank you.

S2: Thank you so much.

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Marlene Sanchez-Barriento salavages items behind her home damaged by flooding, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, in. Sanchez-Barriento's home was damaged when flood waters rushed though her home on Monday, Jan. 22.
Denis Poroy
Marlene Sanchez-Barriento salavages items behind her home damaged by flooding, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, in. Sanchez-Barriento's home was damaged when flood waters rushed though her home on Monday, Jan. 22.

San Diego County officials announced Monday they are providing housing for those displaced by the flooding that occurred during the Jan. 22 storm.

Local nonprofit groups have been helping impacted communities since day one, when flooding hit areas like Southcrest, Chollas Creek and parts of National City.

We hear from some of those involved in the ongoing efforts to help those affected by the flooding.